31/31 Day 1: Michael Arlen and M.R. James

Devilatthelens by Skellis

Devilatthelens by Skellis

Born Dikram Kouyoundjian in Rousse, Bulgaria, Michael Arlen later changed his name and naturalized as a British citizen. Arlen’s short story “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” was inspiration for the song, and his first novel, The Green Hat was an unmitigated success, resulting in broad critical acclaim and a film adaption with Greta Garbo in 1928. “The Ghoul of Golders Green” was published in the Mayfair in 1925, and while it starts off with some spooky references to Jack the Ripper, it’s really a lampoon of British filmmaking incorporating biographical chunks of Arlen’s childhood. It’s definitely worth reading, however, if only for the recognition of how much he toys with our ideas of melodrama and horror, as meta and multi-genre as they get.

Unfortunately, I’ve searched and can’t find a link to a public domain version of “Golders.” I found it in the Great Ghost Stories anthology from Chancellor Press (2002), which is a great collection covering everyone from Joseph Conrad to Washington Irving.

To make up, I’ll link to a free copy of one of my favorite ghost stories of all time: M.R. James’ “Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad,” its title taken from Robert Burns’ poem of socially condemned love that James turns into a tale of queer repression worthy of the Turn of the Screw. Enjoy!

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